Former CIA Lawyer Cautions Return To Torture Techniques He Once Defended John Rizzo, former acting general counsel of the CIA, says there's little doubt about Russia's interference in the election. He hopes Donald Trump will respect the intelligence community's expertise.
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Former CIA Lawyer Cautions Return To Torture Techniques He Once Defended

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Former CIA Lawyer Cautions Return To Torture Techniques He Once Defended

Former CIA Lawyer Cautions Return To Torture Techniques He Once Defended

Former CIA Lawyer Cautions Return To Torture Techniques He Once Defended

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/508765629/508765630" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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John Rizzo, former acting general counsel of the CIA, says there's little doubt about Russia's interference in the election. He hopes Donald Trump will respect the intelligence community's expertise.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We begin this hour with the intelligence report on Russian attempts to meddle in the American presidential election. The report, which draws on intelligence gathered by the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at hobbling Hillary Clinton's candidacy. John Rizzo is a former acting general counsel of the CIA and the author of the book "Company Man." He says in his view, there is little doubt about Russia's interference.

JOHN RIZZO: I think it's about as strong a case as could be made. When the intelligence community reports something and uses the term high confidence, that means to me that they are as close to certain as they can be in the strength of their conclusions.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think the balance is that has to be struck between what the public knows and then what, you know, the classified information is? I mean, there clearly has to be something that protects the sources, that doesn't put lives at risk, but also informs the wider public.

RIZZO: Yeah, I mean, it is a delicate balance. And it's driven really on a case-by-case basis. Now, in this particular case, I believe the government and the intelligence community should lean as forward as possible to inform the American people about the details and the reasons the intelligence community arrived at that conclusion because after all, there's nothing more fundamental to the American people than the integrity of their votes and their election.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things that struck me is that the report says all three agencies agree with the judgment. It goes on to say the CIA and the FBI have high confidence. And then it says the NSA has moderate confidence. What does that mean, in your view? Is there a disagreement?

RIZZO: No. The NSA saying moderate, it's a subtle difference. You know, it would be one thing if the NSA had dissented from the view. I'd be curious. I'm not sure if we will ever know what it was that the NSA was not quite as prepared to go as far as CIA and the FBI. I will say the fact that both CIA and FBI are on the same page here is significant because not to put too fine a point on it, but there have been many times over the years where the CIA and the FBI have disagreed about a conclusion.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to move on now to President-elect Trump and, obviously, his feelings on the report. He has backed away from his earlier dismissals of the intelligence and of the intelligence community. Do you think this will go some way to repairing, possibly, the relationship?

RIZZO: Well, it's a step in the right direction, isn't it (laughter)? When he starts to interact with the intelligence community leadership - which, after all, will be his leadership after January 20 - and he gets to know the people inside the intelligence community, I hope and trust he will come to appreciate and value not only their expertise and integrity but also their desire, as they do with all presidents, to serve the president who has been elected regardless of party and political persuasion. So CIA is a very resilient organization that way. I lived through seven different presidential administrations. It always worked out.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to move to something else that - something that you have obviously particular expertise on, which is the use of torture. You know, Mr. Trump has said that he could call for the CIA to go back to things like waterboarding, for example. You were instrumental in creating the legal defense for these techniques. Is it a good idea?

RIZZO: No. I think it would be a terrible idea.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why?

RIZZO: Well, I mean, leaving aside some merits of the interrogation program and all of that...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right.

RIZZO: ...It sparked a huge and to this day continuing controversy and opprobrium directed at CIA. And it proved to be a, you know, traumatic experience both for the institution and those of us who were personally attacked for it. So I think and hope that the CIA and the new CIA director would resist any entreaties to return to those days.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: John Rizzo is a former acting general counsel to the CIA. Thanks so much for coming in.

RIZZO: Thank you.

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